In just over a month, I will turn 44.

Is that old? Is that young?

I’m not going to answer with the first thing that comes to my mind, but the word crisis would be in there somewhere.

In truth, it probably depends on where I am and what I’m doing.

As a sports fan who has always obsessed over numbers, I’m excited to be 44. Chili Davis was one of my favorite Twins and he wore that number. I’ve also heard fascinating stories about Chuck Foreman, who was also most notable while wearing 44.

Then there’s the incomparable Henry Aaron, who for me, is the most famous to wear 44. Many of you called him Hank, but I almost always called him Henry because whenever my father spoke glowingly of one of his all-time favorites – he always said Henry.

Ahh…the good old days of talking sports with Dad. I sure do miss him.

The eighth anniversary of Dad’s passing was February 21 and it had me doing a lot of reflecting.

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He’s ultimately the reason I have such a passion for sports. One of his favorite phrases was “care about it,” and when it comes to sports, he created a monster who cares too much about Minnesota teams. They were his favorites, and I inherited that trait and countless others from him.

I often wonder what my dad would think about our favorite pro franchises these days. On the surface, not much has changed: Still good, not great. Still an uncanny ability to lose the biggest games in unthinkable fashion.

Yet the sports have changed. The methods and measurements for success have changed. I’m not one who feels change is bad, but I’m also not one to think change is always necessary. Does that already make me a “get off my lawn guy” while merely nearing my 44th birthday?

If it does, I’m over it already. I believe there are a few steps each major men’s team can take which would be perceived as going back in time. Yet these steps may help the team in the future:

Minnesota Vikings

Get an interior pass rush. The Vikings have been blessed with great pass rushers for decades. Yet recently, their best pass rushers have been off the edge. The Vikings need someone who can generate pressure right in the quarterback’s face. John Randle was an elite defensive tackle. Keith Millard was an elite defensive tackle. I won’t go all P.J. Fleck on you and continue to use the word, but I’ll at least argue that Kevin Williams and Henry Thomas were underappreciated defensive tackles.

Quarterbacks just aren’t the same when they don’t have enough time to “feel the rush.” Now some of you are probably laughing at me because I could base it on how much Kirk Cousins struggles with pressure up the middle. Yet, if you think Kirk wouldn’t carve up the Vikings defense the way so many lesser quarterbacks did, you simply aren’t paying attention.

Nobody misses Mike Zimmer, and Kevin O’Connell proved it quickly. Yet Zimmer’s calling card with his best defenses was using the “A-Gap.” That’s right up the middle. It may have been a blitz instead of lineman, but the concept is very similar.

We can talk all we want about secondary players, schemes, and Brian Flores – but for me the Vikings defense will never improve to a serviceable level without pressure up the middle.

Minnesota Twins

Bring back the bunt and manage with your gut. I miss the Bomba Squad. It was a magical season. Yet it was also one which ended with the same playoff floundering as countless others. Since that year, I’m not sure the Twins have had an offensive identity – they haven’t been healthy enough to find one.

Even though it can technically be “giving up an out,” I’m not sure playing for the crooked number is always the main goal anymore. It’s got to be a balancing act. I’m not pining for the return of “The Piranhas” either, but manufacturing runs won’t be all bad when you can pitch well.

The Twins can pitch well – if you let them. The Twins have (on paper) an accomplished starting staff capable of pitching many innings. They also have a bullpen as arguably their biggest strength. This is where tough decisions need to be made.

I beg Rocco to put the computer down when these decisive moments arise. Show some “old school,” and go with your gut, or trust your guy. If the bullpen is to be a real strength, don’t exhaust them by August. Do we need to revisit how last season ended?

Minnesota Wild

Make a splash. The Wild embrace the “one of us” mantra better than anyone – or at least they did. There aren’t as many token Minnesotans on the roster as previous seasons. Yet, there’s a good one who could be available.

Burnsville native Brock Boeser could be a nice addition for Minnesota, and a great excuse to ship Jordan Greenway out of town. The “Big Rig” has mostly been a “big joke” and if the Wild have any postseason run in them, a boost is needed.

If not Boeser, how about Patrick Kane? It’s not exactly the Brett Favre move, but adding a rival who made quick work of you in many big games has worked out well in Minnesota sports lore. As I’ve said on the radio show before, it would be a superb marketing move at the very least – for a team that doesn’t need that kind of help.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Defend? The question mark is there for a reason. Can the Wolves defend? Does the NBA “care about it?” I’m not sure the Wolves can go back in time to look for answers. Their team history is brutal. Their “best” runs involved several consecutive opening-round exits. Yet if you’ve watched the Gophers this season, Minnesota basketball faithful might settle for “pretty good.”

Maybe none of this will happen, and it’s merely me longing for “the good old days.”

After all, these aren’t my father’s Minnesota teams. I certainly wish they were – more than any of the words can express.

Brian's show, 'The Northland Sports Page', can be heard Saturdays from 10 am to noon on the FAN 106.5 FM/560 AM. You can catch previous episodes on the Northland FAN On-Demand area of our website or on our mobile app.

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